To "The Elitist" and "Annie Oakley"
The bar stool speaks, but will the candidates listen?
My wife was staying late at work Monday night, and my son wasn't coming home for dinner so I decided to hit a local Chinese restaurant for some carry-out. I was at the bar, waiting for my order, as the NBC Nightly News came on. The lead story: Barack Obama's private San Francisco meeting with donors, the ramifications of his comments, and Hillary Clinton's reaction.
The breathless coverage struck a fellow patron rather flat.
He's a North Shore fire department member who had no appetite for what Brian Williams was serving up. Gas prices, he pointed out, are at an all-time high. Other costs are still spiking upwards, including what the average worker has to shell out for insurance--money that has to come out of paychecks that, at best, are holding steady amid ongoing inflation.
And what are the leading Democratic candidates talking about? Elitism, and Annie Oakley.
"I can't wait until all of this is over," my bar mate said. "Why aren't they talking about the things that affect us?"
It's a good question. Another is, "Would we listen if they did?" Voters say they want to hear about the issues, but how many of us tuned into the early debates, when they really WERE talking about the things that affect our lives? Now, that the race is down to just two, the 24/7 cable news cycle latches on to stuff like the Obama's "bitter Americans" chat in San Francisco, or how Clinton looks holding a shot glass in an Indiana bar. This, of course, replaces other pithy issues like Hillary's faulty Balkan memory and Barack's choice of clergy people.
Are we to the point where we feel so hopeless about a President's ability to change things that we tune them out when they actually start talking issues? Have we reduced the race for Chief Executive to a giant popularity contest--"American Idol" with red, white and blue bunting--where we make our choice based on how well the surviving candidates negotiate the months-long verbal mine field that is the modern campaign?
Sad, isn't it?
All I know is that I just put a half a tank of gas into my car, petroleum that cost me a record high $3.54 a gallon. Yesterday, I cut two gargantuan checks to Washington and Madison--leaving me to wonder if I'm getting my money's worth in return. Those checks, plus the rising cost of everything else we pay for, have us reconsidering our anniversary plans (if, indeed, we do anything at all). That's cash that won't be going into an economy that could use the boost, and I'm sure you're probably having the same kind of talks across your kitchen tables, too.
And what are we getting from the candidates? Nothing that tells me they have answers to any of the real things Americans are dealing with. Barack Obama's comments may prove to some that he's lost touch with real people, and I don't know if Hillary Clinton downing boilermakers is going to convince anyone she's at home at the corner tap. But, the lack of focus on what's really chapping America's collective butt tells me they are both sorely missing the mark. Someone with real answers to genuine concerns could run away with this thing.
If, of course, we the people are ready to listen to it.